Dreamt up as a grand university campus, the Bill Bensley-designed resort is home to 244 guest rooms, fine dining restaurant Pink Pearl, and a spa.
If you’ve never been excited about school, JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa might just change your mind. According to a mythical story spun by architectural wizard Bill Bensley, the hotel is an elegant remaking of a former Lamarck University, which existed between 1880 and 1940. Designed in early 20th-century style in a bygone era of French colonialism, the eclectic, yet charming institution is bathed in pops of jade green, bubblegum pink, and sunshine yellow. Varsity-themed details are at the core of the property, from the oversized Phu Quoc ridgeback dog mascots flanking the grand driveway to a memory lane bearing yellowed photographs of the alumni sporting teams and their trophies of honor, and even a running track encircling a soccer field.
Named after French naturalist Jean Baptiste Lamarck, the resort’s sprawling grounds are divided into academic departments including common ones like chemistry and zoology to the esoteric, like conchology. Upon checking in, guests are presented with a student book detailing “curriculum activities”, which include traditional lantern making and Vietnamese calligraphy. Even the amicable resort staff, dressed in varsity-inspired uniforms, play convincing parts as fellow students, further blurring the line between truth and fiction.
Designed with either a spacious balcony or a lush veranda, JW Marriott Phu Quoc’s 244 guestrooms are located at various parts of the campus. The Deluxe Emerald Bay View room in which I stayed was tucked away in the Department of Anthropology, where evolution charts and cultural artifacts graced the corridors. Within the room, a large poster bed took center stage, accompanied by pops of scarlet from the chaise lounge and the patterned wallpaper. Meanwhile, paintings by homegrown artists added a touch of local charm to the room.
The best part of the room had to be the humungous bathroom, which came with a free-standing bathtub, a separate shower, and two sinks flanked by beautiful, tasseled lanterns.
A total of five dining experiences, from seafood at Tempus Fugit to tea snacks at French & Co, await guests at the resort. However, the highlight is the French establishment Pink Pearl. Showcasing Bill Bensley’s signature opulence, the beachside restaurant is photogenic at every turn, with bright splashes of pink, ornate tiles, and luxe upholstery. The elegance of the space is peppered with eclectic and playful details such an oversized globe lantern, and realistic figurines of flamingos and owls. Drawing inspiration from the legend of the fictional Madame Pearl Collins, the restaurant evokes the feel of a luxurious pink mansion, home to lavish dinner parties and celebrations.
By night, the restaurant takes on a theatrical overtone, with opera performances to accompany one’s meal. Especially memorable was the sustainable Chilean seabass dish, which was moist and tender with a layer of perfectly crisp skin. Just next to Pink Pearl is Department of Chemistry, cheekily named for its mixologist’s well-crafted cocktails—a wonderful pit stop before dinner.
Easily one of the most beautiful spas in Asia, the resort’s Chanterelle – Spa by JW is a whimsical experience, from start to end. At the entrance, a large glass display showcases a wide variety of wild mushrooms, a tribute to biological evolution, which naturally includes fungus. Inside the building, guests are invited to explore a whimsical space inspired by Alice In Wonderland, with long hallways mimicking a rabbit hole, and odd-sized photo frames enveloping the walls. I opted for the Asian combination body therapy, which eased me into a deep sleep with long and soothing strokes that undid the knots in my tensed back muscles. Accompanied by essential oils, the treatment left me feeling refreshed and energized for my day ahead.
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Photos were shot by Samantha Francis and Daryl Lim on the new Leica Q2 camera.